June 12, 2012, 10:50 am
Terry Eagleton, the British literary theorist, and probably the best known living exponent of Marxist interpretations, is now 68 and seems to have entered a period of reassessment. He is by no means abandoning his stance as an adherent to the political left, but judging by the interview with him by Alexander Barker and Alex Niven in the current issue of the Oxonian Review, he has considerable misgivings about where the turn toward theory in literary studies has landed us:
I fear that literary criticism, at least as I knew it and was taught it, is almost as dead on its feet as clog dancing. That is to say, all of the things that I would have been taught at Cambridge—close analysis of language, responsiveness to literary form, a sense of moral seriousness—all of which could have negative corollaries… I just don’t see that any more. Somewhere along the line that sensitivity to…
May 4, 2012, 11:11 am
Yesterday, one of my former African-American Ph.D. students, Valerie Lundy Wagner, sent me an e-mail message asking if I had seen a post by Naomi Schaefer Riley, a blogger for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Valerie is now an assistant professor and faculty fellow at New York University and was a Ford Fellow while a doctoral student. Valerie does work related to racial and ethnic minorities and college achievement. She was deeply offended by Riley’s blog post, which ridiculed black scholars and made light of their research, based on no evidence, and wanted to know my take on the matter.
As someone who cherishes my affiliation with the Center for Africana Studies at Penn, I am also deeply offended by Naomi Schaefer Riley’s uninformed, dismissive, and downright racist portrayal of the work of black-studies scholars as well as her commentary on the specific black graduate students…
May 27, 2011, 11:12 am
Should tenure be abolished? Naomi Schaefer Riley argues that it should. Her new book, The Faculty Lounges and Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For, is a Navy Seal Team Six-style assault on Fortress Tenure: quick, precise, and conducted with air of finality.
That is not to say that she overcomes all my ambivalence on the topic. The tenure system in American colleges and universities does have overwhelming faults. It forces tenure-track faculty members to concentrate disproportionate attention on publishing; it conduces to an attitude of indifference towards both teaching and research among a substantial number of those who achieve it; and it is part of an academic caste system that treats adjuncts (“contingent faculty”) very poorly. Even its faults have faults: The pressure for more and more scholarly publication leads to an ever-growing flood of…